BORIS Johnson urged people to cut their social contact from Friday to stop any risk of spreading Covid – as he urged families to show “extreme caution” this Christmas.
The PM insisted at a press conference this afternoon that people can still meet up for Christmas, but pleaded with them to make it as safe, and short as possible.Boris Johnson told the nation to have a ‘merry little Christmas’ and added ‘this year, I do mean little’Boris has said the laws won’t change, but some guidance will
This afternoon he told people across the nation to keep their gatherings small, short, local, and to avoid seeing vulnerable people if they can help it.
He said: “A smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas.
“When we say three households can meet on five days, I want to stress that these are maximums not targets to aim for.
“So, have yourselves a Merry Christmas and I’m afraid this year, I do mean little.”
Mr Johnson warned the nation was “already seeing worrying rises in some parts of the country” and it was “vital that everyone exercises the greatest possible personal responsibility”.
He added: “The overall situation is, alas, worse and more challenging than we’d hoped when we first set the rules.
“We are collectively, across the UK government, at every level, asking you to think hard, and in detail about the days ahead, and whether you can do more to protect yourself and others while keeping the laws, the same, but we all want to send the same message.”
He said people should avoid staying overnight, and not to travel from high risk Tier 3 areas to lower risk areas.
But he refused to scrap the laws allowing people to meet, telling the nation it would be “frankly inhuman” to ban Christmas and “against the instincts of everyone in this country”.
However, Professor Chris Whitty said: “Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.
“You wouldn’t drive at 70pmh on an icy road – these are icy and treacherous conditions.”
It came as:
- A minister said people should “make Easter the new Christmas” and postpone gatherings
- A statement on the outcome of four-nation talks is expected this afternoon
- More toughened up guidance is expected to come for the whole of the UK later – urging people not to travel unless necessary and avoid seeing elderly relatives
The elderly should delay seeing family and friends until they have got the vaccine, he warned, and people shouldn’t go to Boxing Day sales with crowds of others, either.
His press conference came after Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon announced they will introduce tighter guidance in their countries to try and cut down on Covid spread – but this won’t be legally enforceable.
People will be allowed to meet up in bubbles of two in Wales, but three in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
And people will be told just to meet for ONE day in Scotland, with up to five allowed in the other three countries.
It means people won’t be fined for breaking the new updated guidance, which will be slightly different in all the four corners of the UK.
Today’s announcements leave the public facing a moral dilemma about whether to see family and friends over the Christmas period – and for how long to meet up.
Ms Sturgeon said this lunchtime that people shouldn’t form a bubble for more than ONE day over the five-day period.
And she advised people NOT to stay overnight, to travel to areas of the UK with lower case rates, and urged anyone who could to postpone their plans.
She said the safest way to spend Christmas was in your own home, with your own family and no one else.
But windows should stay open and people should not eat from the same dishes if they do decide to meet up.
She said: “If you do form a bubble, you should not meet up with any one in it for more than one day over that period if possible and you should not stay overnight unless it is overnight.
“If you are intending to form a social bubble, you should already be avoiding unnecessary social contact. If you haven’t made plans to form a bubble, please don’t.
“If you have made plans but they’re not really essential, please postpone them to later in the year.”
A spokeswoman for Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said they would be holding discussions with their medical and scientific advisers before making further decisions.
Mr Drakeford said the advice from the Welsh Government was that only two households should come together to “form an exclusive Christmas bubble” in Wales.
He said: “Later today, we will publish joint advice across the UK, explaining that a smaller Christmas is a safer Christmas. That a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas.”
All non-essential retail, hairdressers, and gyms will have to shut on Christmas eve, too.
Pubs, restaurants and cafes must close at the end of the day on Christmas Day, too – and the country will then go into a new lockdown from 28 December.
Families across the UK had been previously told they were allowed to form a Christmas bubble of up to three households for five days between December 23 and 27.
Ministers have now toughened up their language and guidance, to urge people to stay home if they can and delay seeing family.
They will alter their messaging by telling people to be careful, and stressing the decision will be a personal one for every family.
Shoppers and commuters walk along Oxford Street
Boris told PMQs today: “As of today there is unanimous agreement across all the UK government, and across all devolved admins, that we should proceed in principle with the existing regulations.
“Because we don’t want to criminalise people’s long-made plans.
“But we do think its absolutely vital people should at this very, very tricky time, people exercise a high degree of personal responsibility.”
He said the nation must make their own decisions – but should “avoid contact with elderly people wherever possible”.
THE NEW CHRISTMAS
This morning a minister should “make Easter the new Christmas”.
Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, told the nation they should consider delaying their Christmas trips this year until next year, when it was likely that older, vulnerable people will have had the coronavirus vaccine.
The comments are likely to spark chaos and confusion with just days to go until people are allowed to go and meet friends and family for Christmas.
The change in message comes as London, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire went into Tier 3 today – forcing all restaurants, cafes and bars to close and do takeaway only.
And earlier this week Matt Hancock warned of a new strain of the virus being located – which may spread more quickly and easily.
Mr Jenrick said people should consider whether they can “meet up in the spring… Easter can be the new Christmas for some people.”
Robert Jenrick said people should make Easter the new Christmas and meet up then instead
He went on: “Because the rate of infection is rising in many parts of the country, it is incumbent on each and every family to have that conversation – ‘is that right for our family?’”
He said getting people together would “not be cost free” and would have an impact on positive cases.
It’s thought the new guidance will include:
- Telling people to stay local and not travel across the country unless necessary
- Avoid public transport if you can help it
- Telling people not to see elderly relatives
- Keeping bubbles small as possible
- Taking Government advice to stay safe with bubbles including keeping rooms ventilated and staying socially distant
- Isolate before seeing other households if you can
Mr Jenrick today refused to say how many Brits should meet up for Christmas – and stressed it was down to a personal choice.
He told Good Morning Britain: “You need to think where you live and come to an informed judgment. These conversations are happening up and down the country.
“You need to trust people to use their own judgment to think about their own circumstances.”
He warned that in America, Thanksgiving had led to a rise in cases, but the UK had tighter rules here.
“We are taking decisive action and the legal restrictions we’re taking are stronger than the US.
“Myself and other members of the government are issuing a sombre warning and guidance to think carefully how you want to treat Christmas in your households.
“There are risks in bringing people together with a virus which thrives on social interaction.”
His own 80-year-old parents have decided not to see him and his family for Christmas this year, he added.